cover image Enchantment in the Garden

Enchantment in the Garden

Shirley Hughes / Author HarperCollins Publishers $18 (64p) ISB

Tiny pen-and-ink drawings sparkle in the margins of this meandering fantasy about a lonely girl and a statue that springs to life. Hughes (Stories by Firelight) is a master of expressive line: awkward Valerie, her befuddled governess and a parade of 1920s dandies cavort hilariously in spot art accompanying the text. Unfortunately, less forceful, sketchy Italian landscapes predominate, and the story gets maudlin. The statue boy, Cherubino, is the son of a sea god; he has inexplicably been turned to stone. Come to life when Valerie whispers she loves him, he is thrown in an orphanage, then rescued by Valerie's socialite mother and put to work in the garden. On a seashore holiday, he runs away. Nobody but Valerie cares, and she is heartbroken. Cherubino returns one night to tell her he must pursue life as a sea god, and proclaims his love with an ungodly lack of eloquence: ""By the way, sea gods can love humans sometimes, you know. Now and again--every thousand years or so. A very unusual human, that is."" Then he is gone. And by most readers, he won't be missed. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)